Sleek got in touch with me regarding this post and this is what they had to say. All the bold apart from the signature is mine.
First off, I was really pleased to read such a comprehensive reply from Sleek. They've addressed most of my concerns in this, so I'll just type a quick response.I am writing you in response to your post titled “Sleek MakeUP is no longer aimed at Black women” and follow up post regarding our True Colour Lipstick range as I know that you have sent a query through to PR and I thought I’d take the opportunity to respond and address some of your concerns.
Firstly let me say what an interesting read your post made. It touched on many issues that as a company we have had to address in order to position the Sleek MakeUP brand as one of inclusivity rather than exclusivity.
As a Black Caribbean woman and Marketing Director of Sleek MakeUP it was clear to me that it was not only Black Women that had issues with finding their particular shades of foundation. Mixed Race women, Middle Eastern women, East & South Asian women and Latina women as well as others sometimes experienced this problem as well. In truth Sleek Cosmetics (the former brand) catered predominately for Black but also Mixed Race and Asian women. Our strength as a brand was being able to understand the requirements needed in the development of makeup for a plethora of darker skin-tones.
As a company we found that it was an untenable position to be in if we were for example going to some Caribbean islands and also South American countries where there were many mixed-raced women as well as Black women and saying to those women – our focus is only to provide makeup for Black women. This to me not only seemed unfair but I also felt that it disregarded the contributions of the many women of Mixed Race and Asian backgrounds who do not consider themselves to be Black but have bought into the brand for many years.
Our position will always be to celebrate the variety and diversity in beauty and to enable women who found it often difficult to find their shades in mainstream brands to be assured that they can find their shade within the Sleek MakeUP range. Excluding particular women from buying into our brand because of their racial background goes against the spirit of celebrating diversity. To take the Sleek MakeUP brand to markets where other brands often do not venture such as Brazil it is important that we are humble enough to research and understand the complexities of racial identity in these markets and not force our own perception of race and beauty on them. To do this as a brand we have to be in the position where we offer a full spectrum of foundation shades from which shades can be selected that are appropriate for their market and racial mix.
When the Sleek Cosmetics brand re-launched as Sleek MakeUP some six years ago we were clear that the focus would be not to sell based on race but to sell products based on high pigmented products that enable all women to further enhance their natural beauty. The models that we use to reflect the Sleek MakeUP brand are carefully chosen so that they are examples that we can all buy into beauty regardless of the race of the model on the front cover and vary so that we show all shades of beauty. We do not believe this makes us just another brand as Sleek MakeUP is the only mass-market brand that provides 30 shades for all women – truly celebrating diversity. Our aim is that any woman can say “My Skin, My Shade My MakeUP” – our tagline when referring to themselves and the Sleek MakeUP brand.
We understand that some of you may feel that you would prefer to shop from brands that only cater for a specific race due to concerns that you have about companies being able to understand the needs of women with darker skin-tones. However I would like to assure you that what we have found is women of all skin tones often have very similar problems and what we are doing is trying to address this not for a particular race but for women in general. It is admittedly a challenge but one that we embrace.
I would also like to state that in regards to our ‘Destination S’ event bloggers of many races were invited and present. We have never and would never select invitees to any of our events based on their racial background! And the suggestion that there were no black bloggers at the event is simply untrue. Bloggers are selected based on past attendees list, bloggers that are on our mailing list and finally bloggers that have been in contact with us are put on a master list and then random selections occur.
The fact is many bloggers have reviewed the Sleek MakeUP brand from all over the world and who are of many differences, all of whom have contributed to the success of the Sleek MakeUP brand in recent years – we will never say to any of these contributors nor the consumers that have bought products as a result of the blogs and vlogs that we are happy for you to buy into one part of our range but not the other, it would be like saying thanks but no thanks. We appreciate every customer, every blogger and vlogger that has bought and continues to buy Sleek MakeUP products and we will continue to work on perfecting our line for women of all races without neglecting the need to understand the complexities that women of darker skin tones have when finding their shade of makeup. I’m sorry if you or any of your readers who are bloggers felt they were over-looked in our selection as this was not our intention and in fact you raising this issue has encouraged us to think about developing a fairer and more comprehensive selection process for our blogger events.
In regards to the discussion addressing the comprehensiveness of our new True Colour Lipsticks range, in-particular it lacking in offering for women of darker skin-tones. As a company we work closely with some of the best makeup artists in industry and we get feedback from these artists when developing our range. These make-up artists use our products on our campaign models who are ethnically diverse as well as on their clients. They continually provide us with product feedback which enables us to improve our offering. We combine this feedback with sales data and trend reports, this is the basis for us discontinuing or amending a range such as True Colour Lipstick.We have kept the best selling shades from the old range, introduced new shades based on trends and Makeup artist feedback. There may be shades that you feel better fit women with darker skin-tones that are not in the new range which may be the case, however the reason for this is probably because globally they were not either best-selling lines or lines that we decided to keep based on buyer and makeup artist feedback globally.. I say globally because this also takes into account markets like the ones you have previously mentioned i.e. Nigeria.I will admit that this range does lack probably two brown-type shades which we found during our testing, these are currently being developed and will be available later on in the year. Ideally they should have been included in the first launch however with only 20 in-store spaces we felt confident in the new line up being trend-inspired and compatible for many women to be launched as the primary range with provisions to add other shades for online sale throughout the year if necessary.
Once again, thank you for taking the interest in the Sleek MakeUP brand to take the time to write posts addressing some of your concerns and in turn giving us an opportunity to respond. I hope in my attempt to clarify our position on this topic you will be able to better understand the challenges that multi-ethnic marketing throw up and our attempts to combat these as an ongoing commitment. We continue to listen, learn and position the Sleek MakeUP brand in accordance with our core beliefs and that best fit our valued consumers.
All the best,
Marketing DirectorSleek MakeUP
The "no black bloggers" thing was my bad. I don't think I said it in so many words, but instead of researching into everyone that attended the event I just took Twitter's word for it. I hold my hands up, that was my mistake. Also, I never commented on whether the selection process was fair or unfair, though I have seen that sentiment around. Just clearing that up.
EDIT: In all fairness, they only had one or two black bloggers/vloggers involved from what I've seen and read.
I probably didn't make this clear, but I really like the fact that Sleek have so many shades of foundation and that a good sized sample is available in store. It's great that they aim to cater not only to black and white women but also Latin, Asian etc. with the foundation line. What my main issue was with the change was that it seemed like carefully selected lip colours, eye colours etc. that were either nude on or flattering to women of colour were in danger of being lost in favour of this new diversity - that instead of producing more product to flatter everyone, the products that seemed too "niche" would be gotten rid of. However, if you skip to the last thing I bolded, later this year - fingers crossed - two more brown shades will make their way onto the shelves, or at least onto the website. EDIT: As of August 2011, this hasn't happened and I've heard nothing about it (though a LOT about their upcoming releases) so until this occurs, I'll be standing by my original statement)
What has been clarified is that Sleek are aiming it at "everybody" but rather than cutting down the shade range to reduce the exclusivity, if you will, they're saying that they will be trying to expand it and make it more comprehensive so that women of all colours will be able to find what they need. Taniqua mentions that Sleek are looking at or have already entered other markets such as Brazil and the Caribbean, so hopefully this means that the shade range of all of their products will continue to expand and grow, and Sleek can remain a company which black women can find makeup products they need at a decent price.
Their customer service is still appalling, though.